Even less likely, today’s word, Fingerspitzengefühl — which you’d be hard-pressed to find in any English dictionary. It’s not in the Random House Unabridged, Webster’s Revised Unabridged, Webster’s New Millennium Dictionary of English, or the American Heritage Dictionary. It’s not even in the Oxford English Dictionary (though I would guess it will end up in one of the supplements sooner or later). Despite that, one does find the word making its way into English, and not just recently, as in this notable political op-ed by William Safire from the New York Times, March 9, 1995. Safire’s loose definition is also a good starting point, where he describes Fingerspitzengefühl as “that combination of sure-footedness on slippery slopes and sensitivity to nuance familiar to mountain goats, safecrackers and statesmen.” More recently (2005), Safire wrote a language column about filling our “vocabugap” with foreign words such as Schadenfreude and Fingerspitzengefühl, where he refined his definition of the latter into the more succinct “sandpapered-fingertip sensitivity of a safecracker.”
The word literally means “fingertips-feeling” and refers to an intuitive flair, a sensitive touch, an instinctive feeling or sixth sense about things derived from delicate tactile exploration. The German-English Dictionary of Idioms: Idiomatik Deutsch-Englisch defines “Fingerspitzengefühl für etw[as] haben” as “to have instinctive tact, to have tact and sensitivity, to have a fine instinct for s[ome]th[ing]” . The word is often used in the context of business and politics. We saw in William Safire’s opinion that former American president Bill Clinton lacked it. By contrast, Adolf Hitler was said to possess a surfeit of Fingerspitzengefühl, demonstrating an often uncanny “sense of opportunity and timing.” I believe the same could be said of Napoleon. It’s an essential qualification for diplomats and ambassadors, who need a delicate touch (such as can only be made by fingertips alone) for maneuvering through the dangerously tortuous workings of diplomacy. The Diplomat’s Dictionary would seem to agree, quoting Martin Herz:
What [...] makes a good diplomat, and thus a good ambassador, [... is] a kind of empathy which comes from years spent in cross-cultural communication, Fingerspitzengefühl (the feeling one has in the tips of one’s fingers) which is sometimes acquired by amateurs but is more frequently found among people who have had a great deal of experience [...] .
Moreover, if you don’t have Fingerspitzengefühl, you might be said (if I may borrow from Swedish) to have instead tummen mitt i handen “a thumb in the middle of your hand” — a rough analogue to the English idiom “
Diane Shaw, Special Collections Cataloguer at the Smithsonian Institution Libraries offers another variation: “Specifically in relation to rare books, I believe ‘fingerspitzengefuehl’ means a person with a special knack for identifying true bibliographical treasures that other persons lacking this quality might overlook. It would be appropriate for the lucky man or woman who finds a book worth thousands of dollars on a $10 bargains shelf in a used bookstore” [source; and see here for another similar account]. I think I have that, or a touch of it anyway, to judge by some of my experiences with antiquarian bargain-hunting. I’ve been known to happen upon first editions at my local used bookstores for just two or three dollars sometimes, then sell them to collectors for $100-200. Certainly a better return than you’re going to get putting your money into IndyMac. :)
And finally, let me just suggest that when it came to that intuitive, delicate touch, that fine instinct for navigating tricky slopes among the towering egos of comparative philology in the early 20th century, Tolkien certainly seemed endowed with his share of Fingerspitzengefühl.
Your homework: see if you can find a way to slip this Germanic sesquipedalian into your everyday conversation. Good luck! :)
 Schemann, Hans and Paul Knight. German-English Dictionary of Idioms: Idiomatik Deutsch-Englisch. New York: Routledge, 1995, p. 241.
 Freeman, Jr., Charles W. The Diplomat’s Dictionary. Washington DC: National Defense University Press, , p. 132.